May, 2011 Update: unfortunately, this bag is no longer available.
The Highs: Big bang for the buck, simple good looks, killer price
The Lows: Basic backpack straps, can’t speak to durability
The Verdict: A solid alternative to higher priced bags for the occasional traveler
Travelers wanting to avoid fees for checked baggage definitely ought to check out the new FlightWise collection from Lands’ End. Including duffels, wheelies, backpacks, and convertible bags, the FlightWise bags are all packed (ha) with thoughtful features, sport very attractive prices, and of course are of legal carry-on size.
Take the FlightWise “Carry-On Softsided Bag,” for example. A maximum legal carry-on convertible bag/backpack, it features an expandable main compartment, two generous pockets on its front, a fully padded laptop compartment that will accommodate laptops up to ~14-5/8″ x ~9½” and which includes several pockets for power bricks and other accessories, a comfortable shoulder strap, and padded backpack straps which deploy from a rear compartment. Let me jump right to the punchline: at present, this bag is on sale for less than $65.
That pricing puts it in the value arena occupied by bags like the Outdoor Products Essential Carry-On, which is to say, this is an awful lot of bag for an absolute killer price.
Before going any further, let’s take a look at the bag’s specs.
- Fits all standard overhead storage compartments
- Suitcase with carry strap converts to a backpack
- Overall dimensions: 22″W x 14″H x 7″D (55.9 x 35.6 x 17.8cm)
- Weighs 2lbs., 14oz (1.3 kg)
- Construction: 600 denier ballistic ripstop polyester, lined in 210D polyester
- Expandable main compartment with two compression straps
- Unzips to expand an extra 2″ in depth (non-expanded dimensions: 22″ x 14″ x 5″ (55.9 x 35.6 x 12.7 cm))
- Padded laptop compartment with 4 zippered storage pockets
- Two large pockets on bag front for magazines, travel documents, more
- Grab handle on one end
- Metal hardware; splashproof zippers throughout
- Backpack straps deploy from rear compartment
- Available in 3 colors: Arctic Gray (shown here), Black, Dark Sapphire
- Comes with slide-out luggage tag; clear sided, one quart TSA 3-1-1 kit also included
- Also includes a sewn-in luggage tag in main compartment
- Can be monogrammed by Lands’ End
A photo tour…
The front of the bag features two fairly large, zippered pockets: both measure appx. 19″ x 11″ (48.3 x 27.9 cm) (The lower pocket extends up to the zipper of the upper pocket, giving both the same dimensions) –
A view of the zipper which opens the expandable panel for the main compartment; note the use of splashproof zippers everywhere. The zippers operate smoothly and the vinyl pulls are comfortable to use:
The back of the bag: the laptop compartment is unzipped at the top, and the pocket which houses the backpack straps is unzipped, right:
A view of the laptop compartment. There are 4 zippered pockets for accessories and a power supply, and the compartment itself is well padded. The laptop shown here is a ThinkPad T510, and it’s right at the maximum size for this compartment. The T510 measures 14-5/8″ x 9-5/8″…
Sorry for how inelegant this image is, but it nevertheless affords you a view of the bag’s main compartment. Note the sewn-in luggage tag at the top of the compartment’s cover, a nice feature should the normal tag somehow get torn off. Of course, you won’t be checking this bag, so the extra tag is perhaps a bit superfluous:
The bag’s backpack straps won’t encourage you to use this bag for hitchhiking across the country, but they’re adequate for navigating concourses:
As a point of reference, the Redd Oxx Air Boss alongside the FlightWise Carry-On. The FlightWise is a bit longer, but not quite as wide (even when expanded). Aside from minor dimensional differences, however, the bags are basically the same in terms of overall size. The Red Oxx bag’s construction is much more robust, of course, and these bags serve different niches within the market.
The bag includes a nifty slide-out luggage tag:
Key hardware items are plated steel, and seem more than robust enough for regular duty:
The inclusion of a grab handle on one end is a great feature, very helpful when retrieving the bag from an overhead compartment:
A close up of a zipper pull and stitching. The subtle pattern in the ballistic ripstop gives it an attractive look:
The air foam padding on the shoulder strap provides a bit of extra comfort; there’s not a lot of “give” to the pad, however.
Box stitching is employed at critical points:
Several different bottles are included, along with a toothbrush holder (I suppose this technically doesn’t belong in your liquids bag), as well as a small container for ointments or cream.
A word about color: the white balance must have been off when I took the photos shown here. Although the bag is not quite as dark gray as shown at the Lands’ End site, there’s a warmish cast to the images in this post that frankly isn’t accurate. Here’s a shot I took outdoors, which should give you a better idea of the bag’s true color; sorry for any confusion!
This is hardly a replacement for my Air Boss, but I’m very impressed by the bag’s price/value ratio. Its feature set is very solid, and as I mentioned at the top, it’s an awful lot of bag for the money.
I can’t attest to the bag’s durability, but my initial impression is positive. It’s well made and the quality of the stitching is solid. Ripstop should prove to be quite durable in the field, and if you’re not checking this bag, it should be plenty durable for the average traveler.
At the current sale price of $62.99, this is a bag that’s tough to ignore. See it at the Lands’ End site: FlightWise Carry-On Softsided Bag
The Fine Print: I have no connection with Lands’ End, but I was provided a sample bag to assist in the writing of this review